Fantasy miniature wargaming in South America

What's new here?

This brings together two of my interests, miniature wargaming and pre-Columbian America. Miniature wargaming is the re-creation of battles, either historical or fantasy, using hand painted miniature soldiers on a table. What each side can do is determined by a set of rules, which mainly use dice to give some uncertainty to the process. I usually play historical wargames using 10th/11th century Byzantines and Normans, 15th century Swiss, Italians and English, and English Civil War. However, I have become very interested in the possibility of using pre-Columbian America as a setting for fantasy wargames, and this page is my attempt to flesh out that idea. Since my main area of interest are the Inca, I have specialised in South America.

The objectives of this page are:

This page will probably take some years to evolve, so please be patient and come back from time to time to check on my progress. Some of this has already been published in a set of rules called Fantasy Rules!. This page expands on that work and corrects some slight errors. I don't pretend to be an expert on pre-Columbian South America and I would be grateful for any advice. As soon as I get access to a scanner I will scan in some figures for the review section. One idea is to present a campaign system for the various armies for either DBA or Hordes of the Things.

Background to pre-Columbian South America

The documentation of myths and beliefs of pre-Columbian South America was confounded by the fact that the Incas and other South American cultures did not possess writing. Some documents exist from just after the conquest, however they are often as not corrupted by Spanish interpretation of local beliefs, or confabulated with imported Spanish stories or myths. Much folk-lore was lost due to Spanish religious persecution. Even so, some survived. The beliefs and myths of the pre-Columbian Andean civilisations are a rich source of alternative fantasy for fantasy wargamers jaded with the usual orcs, dwarfs and elves set in a pseudo medieval world.

Possible armies

The Inca were the dominant force of the Andean world at the time of the Spanish conquest, but there were others and there had been many civilisations before the Inca. These include the Tiahuanaco Empire centred on Lake Titicaca that pre-date the Inca; the Chanca who were the historic enemy of the Inca; the pre-Inca Moche and contemporary Chimu civilisations of the coast, the tribes of the Amazonian basin east of the Andes, and the Araucanians in the south of the continent. There were many others.

What armies are possible? First there are the armies of the imperial Incas, made up of both professional and levied troops and led by the Sapa Inca (king or emperor), and protected by priests of Inti the Sun god. There can be armies of fierce coastal peoples led by heroes, priests and a blood-thirsty Jaguar God. From the other side of the Andes there are armies of Amazonian tribesmen and women, armed to the teeth with bows, clubs and blowpipes, poisoned of course, with mystic shamen, anacondas, piranhas, packs of jaguars and other jungle animals. Unfortunately, evidence is often scant for these and many others.

You are not restricted to using "historical" armies. The Andean peoples were superstitious and were afraid of what we would call wizards or witches. The Sapa Inca made his mamaconas (a priestess class) eat the hair that fell from his body so witches could not use it against him. The Andean ideas of life-after-death included a belief in the "undead", where the dead had to be placated constantly. Armies of the Undead or of mis-shapen goblins led by evil Wizards and Necromancers would fall wholly within the Andean belief system. Another army suitable for the genre would be that of ancient sentient saurians or lizardmen, possessing a lost, arcane technology, sheltering in the deep confines of the steamy Amazonian jungle. They would be the caretakers of the final remnants of the golden age of the dinosaurs, leading their charges into battle.

Wargaming in pre-Columbian America does have certain restrictions. There are no horses or other ridden animals, no wheeled vehicles and no iron weapons. While there are a few ranges of historical figures available to wargamers, the same cannot be said for fantasy figures. Most figures for fantasy armies in 15 mm and 25 mm scales are firmly set in medieval Europe. Medieval shields and weapons abound. Lets hope that some enterprising manufacturer will make a range of fantasy figures with feathers, obsidian weapons, spears, atl-atl, simple shields and the like. Such a range of skeletons, goblins, etc. would certainly have great appeal.

The rules

I currently use two rulesets; Hordes of the Things published by the Wargames Research Group (WRG), and Fantasy Rules! published by Chipco Games.

They are both mass combat rules sets where each miniature used in the game represents many troops, rather than skirmish combat rules where each figure represents a single fighter. These rules have basic similarities. Hordes of the Things and Fantasy Rules! both use "elements" or "units" (a rectangular or square base of cardboard or other material with a varying number of miniatures glued to the base) as the basic unit of battle, and combat is resolved by both sides throwing dice, adding factors determined by what type of troop is involved, and comparing scores. Both come with lots of army lists to choose from. There are significant differences;

Hordes of the Things (HOTT)

These are possibly the simplest set of fantasy rules available and are very suitable for beginners. Only about fifty miniatures are needed for each side and you can use historical troops based for WRG's historical rulesets if you wish. Magic is very simple and the rules are highly abstract. For some people that is a problem, but the rules are very flexible and can be used for ANY fantasy or even Science Fiction setting. These rules are also very cheap. They are currently in their 2nd edition.

Alan Saunders has an excellent web site for HOTT at The Stronghold.

Fantasy Rules! (FR!)

These rules are considerably more sophisticated than HOTT and typically need double or triple the figures than for HOTT. They are more expensive, although they are considerably cheaper than other fantasy wargames systems around. FR! basing is different to HOTT, but by using "sabot" bases you can quite easily use figures based for HOTT or other WRG games and play FR!. The magic system in these rules is much more detailed and there is a do-it-yourself section for designing troop types. Not so much a set of rules, rather more like a tool kit, these rules allow you to play in any fantasy setting with battles being possible in the air, on land and both on and under the water! The 3rd edition of FR! has been released, but I only own the 2nd edition (FR2!).

The best entry site for these is the official site run by The Sabre's Edge Hobbies and Games in Canada. This has a links page with a number of references to other very good sites for these rules.

Army lists

The army lists are given for each rule set.

Articles and information

What's new?

28/05/2004 01/06/2003 30/06/2001 28/02/2001 23/07/2000 26/07/2000 09/07/2000 04/07/2000 03/07/2000 21/06/2000 31/05/2000 11/03/2000 14/01/2000 12/01/2000 25/12/1999 04/09/1999

Please e-mail me at with any comments

John Garvey

Began: 29/06/99
Last Revised: 28/05/04

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